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Russia: Fighting Breaks Out At North Ossetian-Ingush Border

Moscow, 16 April 1998 (RFE/RL) - Russian media say exchanges of fire continued today at the border between Russia's North Caucasus republics of North Ossetia and Ingushetia after gunmen attacked a Russian military convoy, killing at least five servicemen. Military officials said General Viktor Prokopenko, of the military general staff of the Russian armed forces, and at least four servicemen were killed when the unknown assailants fired on the convoy with automatic weapons and grenade launchers. Another six servicemen were wounded in the attack. Forces from Ingushetia and Ossetia are combing the area in search of the gunmen.

Acting Interior Minister Sergei Stepashin blamed the attack on Chechen militants who do not recognize the breakaway republic's peace accords with Moscow. Stepashin spoke after meeting behind closed doors in Moscow with Chechen Deputy Prime Minister Kazbek Makhashev.

Makhashev, in turn, blamed unspecified "forces which are not interested in stability in the North Caucasus." In Djohar-gala (formerly Grozny), Chechen President Aslan Maskhadov condemned the attack as a provocation.

Meanwhile in Ingushetia, a continuing search has failed to find 10 Russian border guards abducted yesterday.